Tracy takes on Champ Car crowd Wins inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg It was veteran's day on the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg podium, as 13-year Champ Car driver Paul Tracy used his wiles to win the first race of the 19- event 2003 season,...
Tracy takes on Champ Car crowd
Wins inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
It was veteran's day on the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg podium, as 13-year Champ Car driver Paul Tracy used his wiles to win the first race of the 19- event 2003 season, leading 71 laps of 105 scheduled in his #3 Team Player's Lola/Ford-Cosworth. Second place went to Michel Jourdain Jr. and the #9 Gigante Lola/Ford fielded by Team Rahal, while Brazilian Bruno Junqueira brought his #1 PacifiCare Lola/Ford to third place on a clear, lovely Florida afternoon. Of 19 starters, 12 were running at the close of the 2 hour 4 minute-plus contest, after five cautions caused the proceedings to be slowed.
"This is a great feeling," Tracy admitted, "to take my first win in my first race with Team Player's. They worked so hard all winter and invested so much money, switching to Lola chassis at my request. I kept my own pace and tried to conserve my tires to the end of the race. You have to learn when to go fast and when not to on this technical and tough track. I knew I had to be there at the end," the Canadian said.
Jourdain Jr. attained his best Champ Car finish with second place. "This was a very long race. The track changed a lot and it was very easy to make mistakes with all the yellows. The surface became very slippery after the last pit stops - CART had decreed a 30-lap pit stop window for this event - but we had a good car all weekend," the Mexican ace explained. Junqueira had a first, slow pit stop that shoved him back to 14th, and he gained his 8th podium even though "at the end we had brake problems so we had to settle for 3rd."
Polesitter Sebastien Bourdais learned much in his first Champ Car start, contacting the wall in his #2 Newman/Haas Lola/Ford after his first visit to the pits yet still recovering to take 11th place after making four calls for service, the second one lasting more than 8 minutes. Roberto Moreno returned to CART competition in a #4 Herdez Lola/Ford and drove from 15th on the grid to take 5th place at the close, the most of any driver. Eight of the 12 finishers rode with Lola chassis in this inaugural event on the 1.806-mile street course, praised by all for its precision, technical nature and passing possibilities.
The Champ Cars take a month off before resuming the campaign at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico for the 3rd annual Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey on March 23rd.